Fraternal twins Jagan and Daven Subbiah have lived in Menlo Park all their lives. However, their stories differ far from that of a typical M-A student. Since age nine, they have been attending not only their regular district schools like Hillview and M-A, but also universities. After doing very well on the ACT and SAT in middle school, they attended the University of Nevada, Reno. “It was the only one that would let us in for our age at the time,” said D. Subbiah. There they took their first college class: music appreciation. As it was located in Nevada, the twins enrolled in online classes and traveled to the university primarily for exams. Now, they are students at the University of California, Berkeley, while playing clarinet and saxophone in MA’s concert band.
Adding to their accomplishments, they are also sailors for the U.S. national team; D. Subbiah came second in nationals for his age. Out of curiosity, the brothers tried a sailing summer camp in the Bay Area before hitting double digits. “We made it on the national team and traveled to Italy when we were ten,” said D. Subbiah. Their “flexible schedule” from taking classes at UC Berkeley every other day, excellent coaches, and a whole-hearted commitment enabled them to develop as competitive sailors. The twins train for about 150 days a year with coaches from Singapore, Argentina, and Norway to practice for future races near the East Coast and across the globe.
However, sailing at this level is a challenge. Often, they find themselves practicing 20-30 days a month without rest and “where people usually have the time to hang out with friends, [they] don’t,” said D. Subbiah. Traveling all year for major competitions also means missed days of band and college. The “hard part is catching up on work,” said J. Subbiah. For their competitors, keeping up with these demands encourages many to be homeschooled.
Sailing isn’t simple either. Compared to football, “sailing doesn’t have any plays, so you always have to be adapting to your current situation,” said D. Subbiah. The wind is also a key variable in performance because it is difficult to remain consistent in speed, a must for succeeding. “You can prepare as much as you want, but the wind will always do something that you can’t control.” Along with the wind varying from zero miles to 30 miles per hour, you can be racing a hundred other sailors while “trying to leverage the entire force of the sail with your body,” said J. Subbiah.
Preparing and figuring out solutions to combat the wind requires a very mental approach. “The patterns are never the same,” said D. Subbiah. Learning how to confront difficulties like momentary shifts in wind is a constant mental challenge. Sailing is an individual sport, and while a typical excuse for a failed race is the shift in wind, J. Subbiah believes it is the sailor’s responsibility to find solutions as he or she is “the one who takes charge.”
While frequent practices and races are tough, the twins feel that these activities enforce valuable lessons on perseverance and bravery that “you might not get in schools,” reflected D. Subbiah. During races, there are no referees or judges. This “taught me a lot about being responsible,” said J. Subbiah. If someone needs to be disqualified, it’s up to other racers to gather witnesses and take the initiative to “file a protest” in front of a court-like room with a panel of judges.
As they sail through high school, a college workload, and tough competition, D. Subbiah is determined that they will keep these principals in mind:“keep going no matter what” and “if you lose, you can always go out with a fight.”